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Cain indicates support for Federal Marriage Amendment

GOP front-runner abandons position that issue should be left to states

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Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has indicated he now backs a U.S. constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage throughout the country — marking a change from his previously stated position that the issue should be left to the states.

The current front-runner in the race to win the GOP presidential nomination said he supports federal action to deny marriage rights to gay couples in an interview published Sunday with the conservative Christian Broadcasting Network.

Asked by political reporter David Brody if he backs a U.S. constitutional amendment against marriage equality, Cain said backs federal action because of efforts to undo the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 anti-gay law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. The Obama administration has stopped defending the statute against litigation in court.

“I think marriage should be protected at the federal level also,” Cain said. “I used to believe that it could be just handled by the states but there’s a movement going on to basically take the teeth out of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and that could cause an unraveling.”

Cain continued, “So we do need some protection at the federal level because of that and so, yes, I would support legislation that would say that it’s between a man and a woman.”

In the same interview, Cain said he backs a U.S. constitutional amendment that would overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion rights constitutionally protected throughout the country. He said he would sign the amendment, although constitutional amendments don’t go to the president, but to the states for ratification.

Cain made the comments as he continues to enjoy strong support in national polls and polls in Iowa, the first state that will hold a caucus or primary in the election season. According to a University of Iowa poll published last week of likely caucus-goers, Cain was the choice of 37 percent of respondents. Coming in second was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was favored by 27 percent of responders.

The pizza magnate’s remarks on marriage signify a change in the position that he held as recently as last week when he said he wouldn’t seek a Federal Marriage Amendment and believes the issue should be left to the states.

During an appearance last week on the NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cain said,“I wouldn’t seek a constitutional ban for same sex marriage, but I am pro-traditional marriage.”

Asked by host David Gregory whether states should decide the issue for themselves, Cain replied, “They would make up their own minds, yes.”

But Cain’s new position is on par with the position he held in 2004 when he was running to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Cain issued a statement condemning the decision and calling for a Federal Marriage Amendment.

“The courts have failed the American people,” Cain said at the time. “Congress needs to enact a constitutional amendment to protect the sacred institution of marriage.”

Cain continued, “Liberal-minded judges have opened a floodgate of judicial tyranny that will chip away at the core values of this country until nothing sacred is left! It started with not allowing prayer in schools, not being able to display the Ten Commandments, attempting to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and now making same-sex marriages legal.”

The change in positions for Cain over recent years had made him the brunt of attacks from both LGBT advocates and as well as Republican presidential candidates seeking to oust him from his position as GOP front-runner.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said Cain “flip-flops more than the pizzas he used to cook” and said his remarks demonstrate a misunderstanding of the legislative process.

“In less than ten years, he’s had three positions on this issue,” Sainz said. “It’s hard to believe which Herman Cain is speaking. With respect to his answer to this question, Cain continues to confuse the role of the president in this process. The president would have no role in a constitutional amendment to ban marriage; it would be up to Congress and the states.”

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who represents a district in Minnesota in the U.S. House, also attacked Cain on FOX News Sunday for being inconsistent.

“You can’t have all of these flip-flops in our nominee, one after another, and it’s making the voters’ heads spin,” Bachmann said. “I think it’s giving people pause, and they’re asking real questions about, what does he believe, truly, and how would he govern as president of the United States And that’s non-negotiable.”

Cain’s most recent remarks raises questions because he never explicitly mentions the Federal Marriage Amendment, but instead makes vague comments about federal action. Cain said he backs “legislation” to address the issue, which is different from an amendment. The video in which Cain makes the remarks is also apparently edited during the portion that he makes the comments.

The Cain campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to clarify the candidate’s position.

Chris Barron, board chair of GOProud, said the kind of federal action that Cain is seeking with regard to marriage isn’t clear in his remarks during the interview.

“Honestly it’s not clear from his response,” Barron said. “He is indicating he is for some additional federal approach but unclear what.”

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The White House

Biden administration uses IDAHOBiT to highlight LGBTQ rights support

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as mental disorder

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Biden administration on Tuesday publicly acknowledged the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

“Jill and I stand in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people in the United States and around the world,” said President Biden in a statement the White House released. “We join with Americans across the country to reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing work of upholding human dignity for all people and advancing equality globally.”

Biden in his statement noted there “has been much progress” since the World Health Organization on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Biden also highlighted “we continue to witness disturbing setbacks and rising hate and violence targeting LGBTQI+ people in the United States and around the world.”

“This is wrong,” he said. “LGBTQI+ people are entitled to all the rights, opportunities, and protections that belong to every human on this planet. LGBTQI+ people are an essential part of families and communities—teachers, first responders, public officials, doctors, lawyers, front-line workers and friends who enrich and strengthen every single country.” 

“And make no mistake: Hateful legislative attacks against members of our own LGBTQI+ community cannot be tolerated in America or anywhere else,” added Biden. “They spur discrimination and can stoke violence. And they are rooted in the same ignorance and intolerance that we see around the world. Hate is hate—and all of us have a responsibility to speak out against hate wherever we find it.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday issued his own IDAHOBiT statement.

“The United States affirms today, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), that the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons are the same human rights to which all persons are entitled,” said Blinken. “As enshrined in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘[a]ll human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’”

Bliken further noted that “too many LGBTQI+ persons live under the shadow of discrimination, violence and fear.”

“Global data makes clear that the dehumanization of LGBTQI+ persons is systemic, pervasive, and often violent,” he said. “Homophobia, biphobia, interphobia and transphobia are deeply entrenched in societies across the world, including here in the United States. Countless persons are at extreme risk for being themselves.”

Biden shortly after he took office in 2021 issued a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The administration last June appointed Jessica Stern as the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.

The U.S. Senate earlier this year in a bipartisan vote confirmed Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank, as the first openly lesbian American ambassador. The State Department on April 11 began to issue passports with “X” gender markers.

The State Department on April 28 released a report that details the federal government’s implementation of Biden’s foreign policy memo.

“We remain committed to ending this intolerance. Everyone deserves to live with respect, dignity, and safety,” said Blinken in his IDAHOBiT statement. “The United States affirms that all LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, and their families are valid and valuable.”

Biden in his statement also referred to the report.

“By openly reporting on our own progress, the United States hopes to inspire other governments to take similar action to address the needs of their LGBTQI+ communities,” he said.

“To the LGBTQI+ community, my administration sees you,” added Biden. “We stand with you. And we will continue to defend human rights and dignity, at home and around the world.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović are among the other world leaders who have publicly acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ rights, and other U.N. human rights experts in a statement they released on Monday highlighted the plight of LGBTQ people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

“With the number of forcibly displaced persons continuing to rise, States, businesses and humanitarian and civil society organizations must invest in developing human rights-based policies and programs that take into full account the intersectional dimensions of forced displacement and sexual orientation and gender identity, fostering stronger collaboration and coordination among all actors responsible for the protection of displaced LGBT individuals,” reads the statement.

Advocacy groups around the world also commemorated IDAHOBiT.

“Today I want to thank my incredible team of Insight public organization who still works for LGBTQI+ people in Ukraine, saving life’s (sic) of our community during the war,” tweeted Olena Shevchenko, chair of Insight, a Ukrainian LGBTQ rights group. “We are here for equality.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a tweet said IDAHOBiT “is a significant day for the LGBTIQ+ community because it serves as a reminder of the ongoing violence and prejudice that our communities face.”

“The struggle for equality still continues,” added SMUG.

Pride House Tokyo in Japan also acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

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The White House

WNBA players back petition for White House to ‘prioritize’ Brittney Griner’s release

Phoenix Mercury center detained in Russia in February

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Russian state TV has released a photo of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug charges in the country after Russian officials say cannabis oil was found in her luggage. (Screenshot)

The Women’s National Basketball Players Association has endorsed a petition that urges the Biden administration to “prioritize” WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release.

“It is imperative that the U.S. government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home quickly and safely,” reads the Change.org petition that Tamryn Spruill, a freelance journalist and author, created.

“The WNBPA and its members proudly join Tamryn Spruill, the creator of this petition, in demanding that lawmakers prioritize Griner’s return,” it continues. “White House and Biden adminsitration, we ask that you take action today—doing whatever is necessary—to bring Brittney Griner home swiftly and safely.”

More than 135,000 people have signed the petition.

Spruill on Saturday in a tweet said the WNBPA, a union that represents WNBA players, partnered with them and Change.org “in demanding that our elected officials work urgently to gain BG’s swift and safe release.”

Griner — a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife — was taken into custody at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian officials said customs inspectors found hashish oil in her luggage.

The State Department earlier this month determined Russia “wrongfully detained” Griner. A Russian court on Friday extended her detention for another month.

“The Russian system wrongfully detained Ms. Griner,” then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday during her last White House briefing. “We take our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens seriously.  And we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for all U.S. citizens when they are subject to legal processes overseas.”
 
“Now, because the State Department recategorized her as wrongfully detained, it means that our Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs — it’s quite a title but a well-deserved one — is going to be overseeing this case and leading the effort,” added Psaki. “Because it’s a deliberative process and we know from experience of bringing other Americans home, we’re just not going to detail what those efforts look like at this point in time.”

Griner faces up to 10 years in prison.

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Wyoming

GOP Sen. Cynthia Lummis issues ‘apology’ after transphobic comments during graduation speech

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times- times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate”

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Screenshot/University of Wyoming YouTube

During her speech delivered to the University of Wyoming’s College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education commencement Saturday afternoon, Republican U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis told graduates that “the existence of two sexes, male and female” was a “fundamental scientific truth.” 

The audience’s immediate reaction to her transphobic remarks were loud expressions of disapproval including jeering, boos, and demands she leave the podium.

The senator’s remarks came in the latter third of her twenty-minute address which had primarily focused on the critical need for teachers and in the fields of agriculture and other endeavors she noted were Wyoming hallmarks.

In a statement released by her office Sunday, a spokesperson noted that Lummis was apologizing to those who felt “un-welcomed or disrespected” by the comments.

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality,” the statement read.

“I share the fundamental belief that women and men are equal, but also acknowledge that there are biological differences and circumstances in which these differences need to be recognized. That being said, it was never my intention to make anyone feel un-welcomed or disrespected, and for that I apologize. I have appreciated hearing from members of the University of Wyoming community on this issue, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue.” 

An Assistant Professor in the University of Wyoming’s Sociology Program in the College of Arts and Sciences tweeted pointing out the graduate’s reactions along with the fact that the UW campus community had recently lost a Trans student to suicide, making the senator’s remarks more hurtful.

The university’s president also issued a statement Sunday expressing support for all members of the UW campus and community:

May 15, 2022

To the UW community:

On Saturday, the university celebrated spring 2022 commencement with a series of events that showcased the best of what makes us special: our students, our staff, our faculty and our ability to openly embrace and debate complex issues. One of our speakers made remarks regarding biological sex that many on campus take issue with. While we respect the right of all to express their views, from students to elected officials, we unequivocally state that UW is an institution that supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are.

Thank you to the many students and families who celebrated with us this weekend. We welcome the incredible individuality and intellect of all our dynamic and diverse students and never want you to feel otherwise.

Sincerely,

Ed Seidel, President

Senator Cynthia Lummis’ remarks are at the 50:11 time mark:

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